HIP-HOP REVUE
Words: Matt Oliver




Welcome to the latest Rapture & Verse – if you don’t like some of the opinions expressed, don’t worry, VAR has probably got your back. Financial management and futures planning from the eloquently frank Charles Edison breaks it down to ‘Bricks’, striking a chord for those trying to keep their head above water and a roof over it. The guru-like linkage of Chong Wizard summons a mix of voices and beatsmiths to ‘The Soul Stone’, six tracks worth of soulful bumps with criminal connections, ground down by headliners Vic Spencer, El Ay, Juga-Naut, Vandal Savage and Stack Skrilla. ‘Cypher Sore Eyes’ is boom-bap balm for the ears from the game face of Nottingham’s Louis Cypher, getting stuck in and hounding the supplies of DJ Severe, Kastanza and Pete 1st Blood. A six-track EP that’s got soul and a will to win.





An EP of energy spikes and crashes, either frantically running for its life or staggering back so what’ll be will be, ‘Defo Not Normal’ is the badge of honour worn by the twitchy Bang On when prompted and prodded by Reklewz. Will put your speakers in a cobra clutch, whatever direction it’s moving in. “Outlook = miserable, forecast = kill ‘em all” – so say the Delusionists, keeping grounded from their position in the ‘Clouds’. Warnings of caution, carefully, smartly conveyed, make them the responsible choice. A classic sunup-to-sundown beat from Ded Tebiase – slightly stoned, but bassy enough to ring around the borough – allows Ash the Author the maximum means to ‘Transmit’ loud and clear.






Albums

Gawd Status is not a crown that lies heavy with Joker Starr and King Kashmere, ‘Firmamentum’ a rolling thunder of articulate rage and a fiercely tribal shakedown rewriting the Blaxploitation manifesto. The Iguana Man, an absolute banshee on the boards, appears in a more advisory, all-seeing role on the mic, while Joker Starr is at the front, warring so that no man is safe, allowing for occasional leave of reality. Militant pride that’ll uproot those sitting on the fence, including a silky smooth soul intermission playing its position, at a scandalously slim eight tracks long it’s a saga that must run and run. Absolutely boomin’.





Ronnie Bosh has both the no-nonsense name and gameplan of the glory days of East End hard cases, taking great disdainful chunks out of this debut ‘All People Expect’. Setting rhymes in stone with no right of reply, Bosh is perfectly aware that there’s no need to overthink matters or get too technical, yet is never economical with the truth, squeezing the mic in a considered accumulation of pressure. Jazzy head shots and drowsier dips care of Dirty Dike, complete the definition of raw and uncut.

Announcing his album arrival with the pretty outrageous ‘FCK Boy!’, Mr Muthaf*ckin’ eXquire delivers on his promises of a wild ride, armed with a bunch of spanners to hurl work-wards. Just as disruptive is his shrewd taste for narrative, hitting home without promising happy endings. Satisfying your ignorant itch and also reducing dancefloors to bloody smithereens, it’s a surprisingly, satisfyingly well-rounded album where the bite backs up the bark.





Reconvening with Madlib on Etch-a-Sketch (well, not quite) and Freddie Gibbs toting his usual gangsta trappings, the much hyped ‘Bandana’ exploits the sweet spot of Lord Quas’ soul raids and loop manoeuvres as peacekeeper/mostly silent partner in the face of Gibbs’ tirades – not that he needs too much direction to vent anyway. Open to discussion, and that’s before appearances from Anderson Paak, Pusha T, Killer Mike, Yasiin Bey and Black Thought, ‘Bandana’ kind of wings it, mostly cementing their inexplicable chemistry made bespoke.

Tread carefully should you receive directions to and from the Delivery Room, whose eponymous album rolls out the red carpet to a house of horrors and takes uncomplicated swings like a headhunter test-driving a new axe. Sometimes funky in amongst perpetual pulverisation, the Scottish crew reach a rowdy peak as ‘Break Loose’ chucks Flat Eric and The Prodigy into the moshpit. Hocking rhymes like kerb-ready lung butter but always staying one step ahead of the naysayers, Frani P never sweats as ‘Mr Small Stuff’, ducking and diving with the goods to convince you of his chatty flow, particularly when ‘Golden’ shows he’s no Jonny-come-lately. Production from Turkish Dcypha and Marley D perfectly allows him to go wide, notably and aptly wielding Ian Dury’s rhythm stick as they go.





Look no further for beats and rhymes practised until perfect than Ill Effect’s advancement as ‘Loop Junkies. Never taking their position for granted as they take on the world, no doubt the trio have got skills and sonics for days, but half an hour is exhibition enough of what they’re about, making them a heavy tapedeck presence. Also a champion for the good old days without being a golden era bore, Dyzzi’s ‘Kids Back Then’ has got the taste and skill for coming-of-age nostalgia; of course, the soulful snaps that help paint the picture don’t hurt either, and the same goes for the DivSel emcee’s ability to go from dewy-eyed to dervish. One for the summer.

 Literally five minutes after dropping end-of-year cert ‘It Wasn’t Even Close’, Your Old Droog has the temerity to drop another end of year chart troubler. His means of ‘Transportation’ – “rather be a dope failure than a wack success” – takes the form of actual…er…modes of transport (‘My Plane’, ‘Train Love’ allowing himself to get a lil’ bit sentimental, ‘Taxi’ with Quelle Chris), remaining the smoothest source of scornful, so-what couplets and eyewitness accounts. “Half man, half crustacean, 100% asshole” – that’s how Dillon be selling ‘The Tails of Lobsterdamus’, the new face about town where men wanna shell out like him, women wanna peel him off. Doing straight-faced anthropomorphism going beyond the sea, slick rhymes dictate understatedly pimped out beats, entertaining you until he’s cashed out and squids in.





‘Plugs I Met’, restoring the argument of whether seven tracks is album length (etc etc), is Benny the Butcher starting off fairly fluidly, and then getting progressively heavier until bones start splintering. In a world of wiretaps, silencers, balaclavas and dry as a bone extortion knocking down your front door, no quarter is given from Black Thought, Pusha T, Jadakiss, 38 Spesh and Conway the Machine, making this a very dangerous gang-up to ignore.

The ‘Mobb Deep Remixes’ from DJ Duce shows respect to the classics (staples from ‘The Infamous’ and ‘Hell on Earth’) while sticking his own death rattle to the Prodigy & Havoc back catalogue, and ensuring the drama he brings is no small thing with a dozen alternatives meeting the reaper at the gates of Queensbridge.

THE ESSENTIAL HIP-HOP REVUE
Words: Matt Oliver





 

Amidst the debate whether you’re pro-playlist Drake or give a damn about Kendrick, this is the real hip-hop bombshell. To quote Chris Rock: “love rap & hip-hop – tired of defending it”.

Within the ever turning reissue market and with the bun fight of Record Store Day upon us, some re-ups you may wanna check. Slick Rick’s ‘Children’s Story’ is now logically an illustrated volume for bedtime, Blockhead’s ‘Uncle Tony’s Colouring Book’ gets a reboot on wax, and DOOM & Danger Mouse’s ‘DANGERDOOM’ goes deluxe. More bizarre (and Rapture & Verse had to check it wasn’t April 1st), is the new Raekwon album that can be worn as a backpack, where the audio kind of works as a rumble pack for your body. True story.

Singles/EPs

IAMBENJI’s instrumental righteousness summons a headbanging vision of ‘Jesus Walks’ with ‘Its You’, chopping exultant soul into pulpit pressure: a true four minute warning. Korede’s ‘Humble Beginnings’, a smart mini-expo showing what he’s made for J-Live, has got a chunky drum-n-groove jangle to it like heavy jewellery. An impressive half dozen hangout between Juga-Naut and Micall Parknsun lobs ‘Six Bricks’, with Cappo and Scorzayzee adding extra mortar to a fortress built in Nottingham and with a strict policy on the fundamentals. The highly strung Smellington Piff and Sean Peng take solace under ‘Purple Trees’ in a bid to divert jazz cat, beret and goatee vibes, and the champion sound of Mongrels’ ‘Attack the Monolith’ is now an awesome remix movement. The ‘Attack the Megalith’ EP beams a bat signal to a big time octet, including Hashfinger sliding over a cop car bonnet and Third Person Lurkin going a grim-reapin’, to transform the Yorkshire supernovas second time around.



CunninLynguists’ fine ‘The Rose’ EP gets the barricade rocking with soul-stirring open letters eloquently asking questions and patiently waiting for answers. Aiming to make a difference as much as it whispers to bask in the sun, Maurice Brown & Talib Kweli’s ‘Stand Up’ is the epitome of peaceful protest, and something of a nice dilemma to have. Killa Kyleon’s well executed ‘Killing Over Jays’ is a nifty two-way that’s both cautionary tale and industry/cultural call out, to an oxymoron of smoothed out, box fresh trap. ‘Alone by Choice’ but with plenty to offer, Jango gives you a seven track pick n mix of sharp trap and plush roll outs with the flow to match; a GQ EP pretty much pinpointing what your ears need as and when.






Albums

Should you heed the call of Raekwon’s ‘The Wild?’ It’s not a bad shout, showing something close to vintage Wu-gambinoism, open to the conceptual (‘Marvin’, a fine biopic of Marvin Gaye with Cee-Lo; some alphabet aerobics alongside P.U.R.E.), and cajoling Lil Wayne into a decent verse for ‘My Corner’. The huntsman mentality pulls the album over the line just when the glossy crossovers airing his dirty Gucci laundry in public threaten to nullify the threat.

In a way the same can be said for Joey Bada$$’ ‘All-Amerikkkan Bada$$’, whose clear and effective state of the nation addresses come presented in funk and soul pageantry aiming for Chance the Rapper’s all rounder status. The appeal of the supple, easygoing beats, polished hooks and timely gathering together of everyone is obvious (2pac comparisons come easy as well), though it’s an album that settles into a groove and perhaps at times isn’t quite as hungry as the subject matter would welcome. Nonetheless, Bada$$’ development makes him a candidate for end of year honours.

Turntable ringmasters Boca45 and DJ Woody saddle up into the sunset again on ‘Carousel’, where you must be this fly to join the ride. In a myriad of needles, spins and samples, BluRum13 threatening to steal the show as mic anchor, breaks needing another belt notch, and energetic fun (not forgetting the obligatory electro pop-n-lock), technique and entertainment takes lesser DJs to clown school when these two go back to back. BocaWoody boss the big top like Barnum.





Indiana’s irresistible force Freddie Gibbs is someone not for dislodging. Like a Bond villain who doesn’t know what a P45 is, ‘You Only Live 2wice’ does grim low riding, lord praising, quiet storming and do-or-die roulette spinning, all the while Gibbs reads the gangsta gospel slash riot act with that swerveless flow of his going all in. At eight tracks long you’d be forgiven for thinking he’s left a lot in the locker, but it’s a pretty comprehensive, fluid body of work.

Renowned rhyme brawler Apathy cuts the mic adrift and goes instrumental for ‘Dive Medicine: Chapter One’, displaying sonic skills well in tune with his usual vocal rips. Soulful but with plenty of punch, as if Apathy will look you straight in the eye before rattling your ribcage, the sleeve may suggest boom bap kitted out for submarines, but the likes of ‘Scuba Groupie’ and ‘Subterranean Meditation’ are happier chilling in a deckchair amidst a bunch of mean, street-ready flexes. Re-upping straight bat boom bap from social media’s olden days, Sraw’s ‘Beat Weeks’ is the Scandinavian timetabling instrumentals that go bump in the night, jazzy foot tappers over coffee, and wheezing whacks to the loaf. Nice enough to take some time with. The mind expansions of Frenchman Al’Tarba look at instrumentals through a prism mounted atop a plasma ball, ‘La Nuit Se Lève’ the score to a film only streaming in flashbacks you haven’t experienced yet, caught in a cold-veined tailspin with dubstep choking on its exhaust.





Wired between confessional and eccentric wisdom explaining ‘How to Fake Your Own Death’, backwater hip-hop from Ecid unfurls a slow and precise, me-against-everything scuzz of discomfort holding up a mirror to the world in a typical Midwest post-malaise. One to be passed around huddles of the disenfranchised. They should then transfer to the occult of A7PHA, Anticon messengers Doesone and Mestizo delivering a dense, walls-are-closing-in distortion of reality “releasing heat so hot it disinfects metal”, and whose silhouettes make the ponderous and rabid unnerving bedfellows, reaching a crescendo/crisis point. A collection so strictly underground it should come with its own canary, Copywrite and Planet Asia are naturally all about taking care of business with ‘Unfinished & Untitled’; forget the title, these are prizefighters in all their pomp.





With the reserved flow of an all-seeing shaman, Zaire Black stamps the passport of DJ Drez’ global trip of simmering colours on the studious ‘Aficionados’, making work a mismatch of a slight vocal reticence and rich, probing production (check ‘I Will I Want’ for its range of unlikely samples, though ‘That DJ’ goes a bit EDM loco). A collection of remixes for Lessondary’s top drawer ‘Ahead of Schedule’ will do just nicely: ‘RE:Scheduled’ has twangy funk and head nod high noons from Jamie Cooley, Donwill, Jermiside and ZFTP slipping nicely into a support role going toe-to-toe with the quality of the original. The smoothness of Brooklyn’s ScienZe orders ‘Kind of Dessert’ to go with the nightcap he’s suggesting you come up for; cosmopolitan swirls, boho brainstorming, neo-soul niceness and vibes that wake when they want before hitting the ground running. Still one of the game’s surest things when it comes to storytelling, Murs as ‘Captain California’ drops you slap bang in the middle of the action, as well as walking you through tales step by step with simple start-beginning-end structures. Buoyant beats help Murs’ Mills-n-Booning no end, and his show-n-prove still ain’t bad either.






Mixtapes

Dishing out more mixtape pleasure, Donnie Propa goes to town on the play and record buttons for a second Masta Ace masterclass; a standard fix-up of classics, one-offs etc, ‘The Ace Tape volume 2’ won’t let a single beat, rhyme, cut or blend miss a step. A great DJ curates a great emcee.

Front and centre this month: Danny Brown’s must-see, Evidence’s latest weather report, The Last Skeptik going split-screen, and Bohze’s weekend attire.

 













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